Early graduates provide advice

Image courtesy of Mariel Elopre from https://dailyillini.com/special-sections/graduation-guide/2018/04/30/advice-from-early-graduates/

With the semester coming to an end, the class of 2018 is mentally preparing for the big day: graduation. Among these students, there are some who have finished their required credits in less than the usual number of years or semesters. Around 3% of the freshman class of Fall 2018 graduated early, and there will be several this weekend, too.

The term “early graduation” is ambiguous. Some students have “gap” semesters in which they are not enrolled, and graduating during summer and winter terms can be considered as well.

Philip Graff, data management analyst in the Division of Management Information, stated, “We don’t currently have any statistics — or even definitions — dealing with early graduation figures.”

Graff provided data from the University Office for Planning and Budget on the freshmen of Fall 2011, defining early graduates as those who graduated in less than eight semesters.

One of the early graduates is Peter Tatkowski, third-year student in Engineering, who had never intended to graduate early. He happened to be able to graduate in three years because he came into the University with around 20 credits in physics and math and had been taking a lot of classes every term. 

He thought it would be impractical to stay on campus for another year when his requirements were finished, and graduating early also meant saving money.

Tatkowski took an average of 18 credit hours each semester, which is the maximum number of hours a student can take at the University without special permission during the fall and spring terms. Aside from a semester when he studied abroad and took 15 credit hours, he consistently took more classes than the average student.

“It was honestly not that bad of an experience. It was a little tiring second semester of my second year, but I made it,” Tatkowski said.

During summer breaks, Tatkowski worked, did research and also took classes. He will be going to ETH Zurich, a STEM university in Switzerland, after he completes his internship this summer.

Tatkowski shared that the reality that he is graduating has not hit him yet. He is sad he isn’t graduating alongside his friends, but he knows that wherever he goes they will still keep in touch. He added that he wants to visit them later on if he can.

“I’m not processing graduation yet… it will happen when it happens,” Tatkowski said.

But not all students are open to the idea of graduating early.

Hannah Chung, freshman in ACES, is currently eligible to graduate a semester early if she continues to take around 17 hours a semester and enrolls in several classes during the summer. Regardless, Chung isn’t sure if she wants to do it.

Chung was familiar with the University campus before she even attended the school because she is from Champaign. Despite this, her freshman year has been new and exciting, and she wants to get the full college experience by staying all four years.

“I don’t mind taking more classes, but I don’t know if I’m going to be ready to leave college just yet,” Chung said. “I also want to graduate with all my friends, not with a different, random class.”

Some students are taking full advantage of the benefits that the University has to offer. Krishna Dusad and Shivansh Chandnani, both third-year undergraduate students in Engineering, are part of the 5-year BS-MS program, which allows students to achieve both bachelor’s and master’s degrees within five years.

Before he even came to the University, Dusad had been considering graduating early if possible. As an international student from India, he had not been familiar with the AP system. When he found out about how AP credits could be transferred into college credits, he immediately took AP exams and came into the University with around 25 credit hours, which is more than a semester’s worth.

Dusad explained that he never had to take an overload of classes. He took around 16-18 credit hours every semester and took two classes one summer, but other than that, he didn’t do anything special in order to graduate early.

“Fall of my sophomore year was terrible. It was very taxing and really hard, but I learned to plan better and it gradually got better,” Dusad said.

Dusad added that especially as an international student paying the international tuition, graduating early helps save a lot of money. On top of receiving his bachelor’s degree in three years, he could get his master’s in a short amount of time as well.

In the information Graff provided, Non-Resident Aliens (NRA) make up 7% of the students who graduated in less than three years and 14% of those who graduated at least one semester early. This is the largest demographic.

“I was actually deciding between studying here and Imperial College London,” Dusad said. “One of the biggest reasons for deciding to come here was because I realized I could graduate early and the program was pretty flexible.”

Dusad will be interning at Uber this summer before he comes back to campus for his master’s program.

Like Dusad, Chandnani had also planned on graduating a semester early. He also came into the University with credits from AP exams. But unlike Dusad, Chandnani took overloads of courses for many semesters. He explained that although it was tiring at times, being busy kept him engaged and helped him stay focused on his academics.

Because he had been taking more than the maximum number of hours for each semester, he didn’t have to take any summer classes like Dusad in order to graduate early. He spent his two summers doing internships.

The summer before his sophomore year, he interned in Chicago with Textura. Before his junior year, he interned at Jump Labs, located in Research Park. This summer, he has an internship at Facebook.

Chandnani shared that one of the biggest reasons why he chose to do the BS-MS program is because he can see his friends again when he comes back to school in the fall.

He also explained that applying for a master’s degree in the program is very different from the normal application process for graduate school. In his opinion, applying through the program is much easier.

“Usually, you start applying around a semester or so before — so if you started in August you would be applying in December — but since I am part of the program, I had to apply more than a year before,” Chandnani said.

Chandnani provided some tips for people who are considering early graduation.

“Don’t burn yourself out by taking more than you can handle, but it is doable. Course overloads are manageable as long as you have good time management skills,” Chandnani said. “There are also other options like taking summer classes. It’s good to graduate early — it saves you time and money.”

Progress report on investigative story

“We believe that there are multiple reasons for the increase in senior enrollment.  There have been several large entering freshmen classes, and there has also been a significant increase in junior enrollment since 2012-13, which you can see as a spike in the graph,” Elizabeth Stern, Associate Director of the Division of Management Information, said.

There is an increase in transfer students entering to juniors and increases in freshmen entering with large amounts of AP and transfer credits which quickly brought them to junior class level.

Further investigation reveals students’ sides to sexual offense case

An affidavit released today revealed that the family of a student had been aware of her relationship with her high school teacher. The teacher had been sneaking in and out of the student’s room through the bedroom window.

Christopher Young, 45, social studies teacher at Peabody-Burns High School, was charged with eight felonies for alleged sexual offenses with two 16-year-old students earlier in the year. He surrendered to court on Mar. 5.

Young and one of the students had been engaging in sexual activities since Dec. 2017. Several of their friends and family had known about the relationship and attempted to convince them out of it.

The two had been referring to each other as “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.” Young, who is married with children, had also told his family that he was seeing someone else.

Chief of Police Bruce Burke was informed of the sexual relations between the two by a close acquaintance of the student.

High school administration also reported suspicious behavior, such as finding Young’s classroom door locked before class. Surveillance systems throughout the school showed the student repeatedly entering Young’s classroom during other class times and the two disappearing into an alcove in the hallway.

Nude photos and explicit text messages were found on both cell phones.

In a text message found on the student’s phone, she talked about her sexual relations with her teacher and another female student. She also mentioned her father.

“My dad’s the head drug dealer and moonshine maker of the town so I’ve got it all made,” she added.

The student’s father told Burke that his daughter did have feelings for Young at the time. He wanted Young to lose his job and marriage and “maybe do some jail time, but not 20 years.”

The student’s sister stated that the student “has mental issues” and “is keeping all this bottled up inside of her.” Her sister had told her that during the multiple times she slept with Young, they had sometimes engaged with another student.

The other student is the second victim of Young’s sexual offenses. Explicit photos of this student were also identified on the cell phones during the investigation. The student agreed to cooperate with a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner/Sexual Assault Response Team (SANE/SART) for an examination.

Young’s preliminary hearing is on Apr. 16.


  • Who else knew about this relationship?
  • (To the student) = can you expand on your text message about your father? What exactly did you mean?
  • What does the community/town think about this case? (he was a liked and respected figure)


Woman killed by “senseless” rock-throwing onto freeway

Emily Sawyer, 43, was pronounced dead after a rock broke through the front windshield and split open her head. The accident is speculated to have been caused by young males throwing debris onto Interstate 74.

Sawyer was driving her mother, Celine Taylor, 86, to church in Danville, IL when a rock the size of a football crashed through the glass.

The 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer crashed into protective railing on I-74. The rock — a piece of granite weighing 10 pounds — was found in the back seat.

Sawyer and Taylor were taken to Carle Foundation Hospital where Sawyer was pronounced dead on arrival and Taylor’s broken arm and bruises were treated.

Police were informed that young males were throwing rocks from the Prospect Avenue overpass onto the freeway around 8 a.m., the time of the accident.

A similar accident last year, when a can of gasoline was dropped onto I-57 from an overpass on Windsor Road, killed Urbana lawyer Samuel T. Howe.

Sawyer’s sisters Felicity Shrove and Donna Taylor said that they wanted measures to be taken to prevent accidents like these from happening in the future. Sawyer’s relatives stated at a news conference held at the hospital that fences should be built on overpasses in the area.

“This was a senseless tragedy,” the sisters said in an issued statement. “Emily was a wonderful mother and caring daughter. Who would do this to a perfect stranger, just for kicks? It could have been any one of us or any of our kids.”

Anyone with more information about the accident can call Champaign County Crime Stoppers at (217) 373-8477.

Police received reports about the possible cause of the “accident” that killed a mother of three on I-74. Young males were seen throwing debris from an overpass onto the freeway around the time of the incident.

For the second time this year, falling objects from overpasses — such as granite or a can of gasoline — have killed motorists on the freeway.

Students face dilemma of respecting picket lines or attending classes

The Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) strike that began on Monday is putting students in a difficult situation as they cross picket lines to attend classes that were not cancelled.

Not all professors relocated or cancelled their classes — some classes are still being held in picketed buildings. This leaves undergraduate students with no choice but to either skip the class or enter picketed buildings.

Clint Moon, freshman in Biology, had to pass GEO members who were protesting on his way to a class in Foellinger Auditorium. He shared that he felt uncomfortable and guilty because it seemed as if he was going against the GEO even though he agrees with what they are fighting for. Most, if not all, his teachers are graduate students, some of whom he really respects.

“I think that it’s fair to students [who] still want to attend class,” Moon stated in regards to classes that were not moved or cancelled. “But it’s also an act of ignoring an issue and essentially glancing over it.”

Neha Chanvani, freshman in the Division of General Studies, was luckier than Moon. Chanvani has not had to come across a situation like this yet, as her classes in picketed buildings got cancelled. She stated that she would not feel comfortable passing through a picket line.

“I understand why they’re picketing and I think they’re picketing for a good reason,” Chanvani said. “Everybody has the right to their opinion and for whatever reason, they may not choose to support [the strike]. I just do.”

Neha Chanvani, freshman in the Division of General Studies says she would feel uncomfortable crossing picket lines. 

Provost Andreas Cangellaris stated in a Massmail to undergraduates that although picketers are not allowed to “create a disturbance or block entrances or exits,” they have the right to talk to students who pass picket lines.

“As a student, you have a right to attend the classes for which you pay tuition,” Cangellaris said.

Derrick Spires, Assistant Professor of English, who moved his class to a different location, shared that he supports the graduate students and their right to strike.

“It is a really important feature of labor,” Spires said. “Their requests are not being honored.”

Spires’s Introduction to American Literature class typically meets in the English Building, which is one of the locations that is being picketed. He moved his class to Wohlers Hall until the strike is over because he did not want to put his students in a situation in which they have to cross picket lines if they feel uncomfortable doing so.

Cierra Humphrey, second-year graduate student in LAS, shared her reasons as to why she is passionate about the strike.

“I have some medical issues, and the health care that we receive isn’t currently adequate,” Humphrey said, “I recently got married. We’re trying to start a family… that’s not really something that is a possibility for many of us.”

She stated that fair wages and good health care are both human and worker rights. She added that she encourages undergraduates to think about what would happen if the TAs and GAs who teach their classes stopped working completely.

She also talked about how it is disappointing when some professors don’t move or cancel their classes in respect of the picket lines.

“What we would hope is that people who have the privilege of having a faculty position would stand in solidarity with us,” Humphrey stated.

Cierra Humphrey, second-year graduate student in LAS, says that she is disappointed when professors do not respect the picket lines.


Uncovering the “behind-the-scenes” duties of a resident advisor

It is 2 o’clock in the morning when resident advisor Itamar Allali gets an urgent phone call from a fellow RA about an unconscious girl in the hallway of the third floor. Allali heads to the site of the emergency and helps the girl regain consciousness while the other RA calls medical assistance. The emergency is resolved quickly and smoothly; Allali has dealt with these situations multiple times during his years as an RA.

Allali, senior in LAS, is an RA at Snyder Hall, a substance-free dorm located in the Ikenberry Commons South area. It is his last year as an undergraduate RA. And in four years, he thinks he has become better at it.

Allali shared that he decided to become an RA after his freshman year because he wanted to help students have a positive experience in the dorms. Although he had been a part of his dorm’s hall council and helped RAs plan events, he did not connect with residents on his floor.

Aside from keeping the halls safe, Allali’s main role as an RA was to schedule dorm activities like he had in hall council. However, this has slowly been changing in the past few years.

Now, Allali meets with residents regularly several times throughout the year. Hall council is entirely in charge of planning events because RAs are focusing on having more one-on-one interactions through routinely meetings and check-ins. This is not specific to the University: many residence halls around the country are implementing this change called a residential curriculum model.

Allali shared that the residential curriculum model aims to help students feel safe on a large campus. He hopes residents will feel more at home and understand there is always somebody that they can talk to. This is a change from the duties of RAs in the past.

“Our role is to assess the needs [of the community] and implement things that need to be done as opposed to what it used to be, which was just to go in and plan fun events,” Allali said.

The residential curriculum model highlights the most important duty of an RA: maintaining safety. This includes both physical and mental well-being.

Allali has encountered very serious situations, like having to take care of residents whose lives were in danger. Although he couldn’t disclose more information due to confidentiality, he said that these situations are scary and intense. This is why one-to-one interactions are significant — it gives students a chance to talk to somebody if they need to.

“Over the years, I’ve dealt with it multiple times where it has come to the point that I feel more comfortable [with these situations] — which is wild — but it has definitely been the hardest part because you realize that anything could happen,” Allali said.

He added, “the average college student might think: ‘if I’m having a crisis, I’m not going to go to my RA.’ What some people don’t know is that plenty of students do.”

Snyder Hall is slightly different from other residence halls in terms of policies. If residents have alcohol and drug violations, they go through a different conduct system because of the contract that students sign when they move in. In addition, students 21 and over are prohibited from having or consuming alcohol in the dorms.

Among the numerous reasons for choosing to live at Snyder, one is that there are students who have family history or personal issues with drug addictions. They simply do not want to engage with substances, making Snyder a clean and safe place to live.

The residential curriculum model works to combat the rising mental health issues in college students. Allali explained that RAs are not required to have degrees or be certified counselors, but they undergo emergency response training and understand who to call in certain situations. Allali said his job is not to be a counselor but an educator who directs students in need to the appropriate resources.

Allali said that by checking up on students on a more one-to-one basis, he is able to get closer to them and know what they need. Because many students are affected by mental health, it is important for RAs to be aware.

Eunice Lee, freshman in LAS, currently lives in Snyder Hall. Allali is her RA, and she has had several check-in meetings with him throughout the school year.

“The meetings are short and casual,” Lee said, “but for some reason they make me feel like I can talk to Itamar even though I’m not super close with him or super involved in the dorm.”

Lee believes that especially as a freshman, living in a comfortable and fitting environment is important. Regardless of which residence hall students choose to live in, they should feel like they matter in the University.

Allali added that the college experience is holistic: learning is not only happening in the classroom but also in the residence halls. It is an essential part of college education. He believes the residential curriculum model is pushing dorms in the right direction.

“If I wasn’t going out and trying to make connections with every single person,” Allali said, “someone who is having a really tough time can totally slip through my radar.”

Faculty accuse chancellor of breaking Illinois Administrative Code

Faculty members are angry with the chancellor for sending a professor on administrative leave for recording a video of a pro-Chief Illiniwek student in a public restroom while others accused of sexual misconduct are given less severe consequences.

Multiple professors, including Bruce Rosenstock from the Department of Religion, stated at the Academic Senate meeting Monday that Chancellor Robert Jones took disciplinary measures against a faculty member without following official rules. Rosenstock added that a disciplinary administrative leave requires extraordinary circumstances.

Professor Jay Rosenstein from the College of Media was arrested Jan. 22 after he filmed students of a pro-Chief Illiniwek group in the public restroom of the State Farm Center during a men’s basketball game. His chargers were later dropped, and he is currently on paid administrative leave.

Rosenstock made the statement that Rosenstein is not allowed on campus or contact coworkers, which Jones denied.

“That is not true,” Jones said, “I have to stop you; that is absolutely not true.”

“Then you’re not following the Illinois Administrative Code,” Rosenstock replied.

Jones responded by saying that they acted after consulting people in the provost office, as they have a more profound understanding of the statutes. He said that the board was going to meet with the F.A.C. soon.

“You have to meet with the F.A.C. before you put him on leave for teaching,” David O’Brien from the College of Fine and Applied Arts stated.

Jones also talked about the threat of strikes as well as the actual strikes that occur frequently on campus in response to a question from Shawn Gilmore from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Jones said that there is always room for improvement in the university, and he and his team are working to negotiate a contract.

“We must do all that we can to ensure that we continue to be a trusted voice when it comes down to discussing and impacting the issues that impact higher education,” Jones stated.

Four hospitalized after game of car tag goes wrong

Four teenagers were injured on Tuesday night after a game of “car tag” quickly turned into a two-vehicle accident.

Another individual, 13-year-old Fillow Cruz, was said to have left the scene at the time of the accident. He was located in his home later on. Hillsboro firefighters checked him for injuries and his condition is currently unknown.

Police reports revealed that the two cars were driving close together when the Dodger took a sharp left turn and collided into the side of the Volkswagen, which was also turning left. The entire Volkswagen was wrecked while the Dodger’s undercarriage was damaged.

“One car went short and one went wide,” Hillsboro police chief Dan Kinning said.

The Volkswagen was “wrapped around a tree at the corner of Date and Grand,” a dispatcher stated.

The drivers of the Volkswagen, 18-year-old Kassidy Trapani, and the Dodger, 17-year-old Kolton Harms, were not impaired with drugs or alcohol in any way.

Trapani and one of her passengers, Ryliegh Petersen, 13, were taken to Hillsboro Community Hospital with moderate injuries.

15-year-old Jasmine Copenhaver, who was riding in the Volkswagen, was taken to St. Luke Hospital in Marion along with 16-year-old Anna Baugh, who was one of Harms’ passengers. They suffered lesser injuries.

Kinning stated that those who were involved in the accident were not being completely “truthful and cooperative” during the investigation. He added that drivers should reconsider playing a game of car tag.

“It’s dangerous,” Kinning said. “Not only should they consider their own welfare and welfare of those who are with them, but the welfare of people who share the street with them.”

Ferguson’s novel to help those suffering from perfectionism

Perfectionism is taking a toll on the mental health of college students and millennials today, influencing young people through social media. Dan E Ferguson’s book Grace’s Mirror: Healing For Perfectionists talks about perfectionist tendencies and provides advice for healing and recovery.

Ferguson’s novel focuses on society moving towards becoming perfectionists, which can have negative impacts on people’s mental state. Perfectionism has a connection to anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other mental illnesses. The book offers sound Biblical and psychological advice for those who are suffering from the effects of perfectionism.

Ferguson’s book was published by Page Publishing, a company that helps small or unknown authors get their work out to the public.

Dan E. Ferguson is the pastor for the Douglas United Methodist Church in Kansas. He received his doctoral degree in pastoral counseling from the Graduate Theological Foundation.

Urbana Free Library will be hosting a program on Feb. 14 at 7 p.m. which consists of a book signing and a chance to meet with Ferguson. The session will take place in the conference room.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

For more information call the Urbana Free Library (217) 367-4057.

Tabor College opens first arts center

After 50 years of anticipation, Tabor College is welcoming the opening of Shari Flaming Center for the Arts with no debts and immense gratitude.

“Some of our alumni and supporters have been waiting more than 50 years to have an auditorium and dedicated performance space on campus. This is truly a dream come true,” Ron Braun, vice president of advancement, stated.

The college’s long-term efforts to pay off debts has come to an end with the help of 1,000 people who took part in a project called the Grand Finale.

“We asked 1,000 people to give $1,000 to raise the final million dollars needed to be debt free,” said Jules Glanzer, president of Tabor College. “We were overwhelmed with the response. The Grand Finale included 1,128 people for a total of $1,194,000 in contributions.”

Glanzer went on to thank everyone who helped, including the board of directors and donors.

The project to complete the building without debts has been ongoing for six years. Braun and his fundraising team at Tabor College are excited to finally finish their work.

The dedication ceremony on Dec. 9 attracted more than 800 people. The next day, the Tabor College Oratorio and Alumni Chorus and Community Orchestra performed Handel’s “Messiah” for 1,100 guests. Both events were streamed online for audiences around the country.

Shari Flaming Center will host arts events for the public including student and guest performances. Beginning in the spring semester, the campus community will gather in the auditorium for weekly chapel. The building also includes a coffee shop, which opened on Jan. 4.

The first guest performance in the Richert Auditorium will be a Winter Classics Concert by Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony Orchestra on Jan. 28 at 4 p.m. Tickets can be purchased through the group’s website or are available for pick up at Faith & Life Bookstore or the NMKSO office, both in downtown Newton.